Christmas in The Cheese Shed is always a tremendous challenge. Everything happens on a much bigger scale than at any other time in the year - and we're always stretched. We start - in September - by devising the Christmas cheese boxes and hampers, pricing them, and estimating how many we're likely to sell. That gives us the number of cheeses we'll need (it runs into thousands), and firm orders are placed with the various dairies for cheese to be delivered to us around the 11th December.
All the special Christmas items are photographed and on the site by the start of November, along with special information about Christmas deliveries. We then try to estimate all the boxes, bags, tape, paper, cards etc that we'll need, not to mention the little business of the wine, beer, biscuits, chutneys and all the other cheeses not featured in the Christmas boxes ... all of this is ordered and starts to come in.
The building starts to fill up with stock, and I'm constantly making lists and trying to work through them. All the while, we're doing our best to let people know about The Cheese Shed and what a terrific thing it is to get cheese for Christmas! As we enter December, the job starts to feel like trying to empty a bath with the taps turned full on - as the orders coming in and the boxes of cheese going out both start to mount.
The work becomes more demanding and peaks in the final week, when the Christmas packing team comes in, and everybody who has ever worked for The Cheese Shed is back on the premises helping out (pictured here). Huge deliveries of cheese arrive, and nerves become frayed as we wait to see if we will actually sell all those Christmas boxes.
This year we were some way short of where we neded to be, with only a few days to go, and so an emergency discount was brought in on Sunday 21st. We were reluctant to do this (knowing that it's very galling for people who've ordered in good time - at the original price) but had little choice as the prospect of a significant amount of unsaleable cheese in the New Year was looming. Fortunately the discount brought in a final flurry of orders and we have survived.
And finally it's over. Phew!
To all our customers we'd like to say a big Thank You for your continued support. To all the brilliant dairies whose wonderful cheese we sell, plus the printers, photographers, Kerrie and the team at APC Exeter, Webselect who organise the site, and many more important people ... thanks for all your brilliant work in 2014.
And to everybody: Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!